NEWS, NOTES &
The Bradsher Beat
Wednesday, July 20,
By Bethany Bradsher
days of summer drag on
All rights reserved.
On days like today, I
miss the baseball haze that hung over my childhood.
Much like the Houston
humidity, the omnipresence of major league baseball was part of the
environment in my family. If it was dinnertime, then the faux wood TV trays
were unfolded, because every one of us ate our evening meal facing the
And the program we
watched was always the same: An Astros game.
Summer might be the time
when schedules were relaxed and days stretched on endlessly, but our
calendars were still defined by home stands and doubleheaders, and our
homework-free brains turned to careful vigilance over the National League
We followed other sports
in their seasons too, but as a young fan, baseball was the most beloved,
because it was the companion of my favorite season.
When I left Southeast
Texas to come to college in North Carolina, I never lived in a major-league
baseball city again, and that happy fog started to lift.
obsessions, notably college basketball, filled the void in many ways. But
nothing ever occupied that vacant stretch of hot weather when college
basketball and baseball seem like memories and football season feels
impossibly far away. When Pirate football countdown calendars fascinate me,
I know I’m in the middle of a private sports wasteland.
It’s the same even for
the most faithful residents of the Pirate Nation, who were able to hang on
to their Diamond Bucs' dreams into early June, but still endure close to
three months of inactivity before they can finally dust off the tailgating
tables again in late August.
If you’re lucky, you
still carry a torch for the Braves or the Nationals, and you can while away
the unbearable stillness of the dog days like I used to, with daily analysis
of ERAs and RBIs.
But if your baseball haze
has dissipated or never enveloped you at all, you are stuck in the Pirate
doldrums, and they seem to be more desolate this year than ever. That might
have something to do with the fact that inside of one June week, two
football players and three women’s basketball players from ECU were charged
in criminal conduct.
Michael Bowman and
Emanuel Davis won’t get to play in that long-awaited season opener, because
their night out on the town turned into an embarrassing shadow on the
program Ruffin McNeill and his staff are carefully crafting.
Those football players
made a choice they will regret for some time, but when Ashley Clarke, Kim
Gay and Crystal Wilson allegedly stole their teammates’ credit card and used
it, they splintered the image of teamwork, diligence and unity that had
seemed to characterize the Lady Pirates. Heather Macy is a young coach, and
her greatest test in leadership lies just ahead as she picks up the debris
left by one impulsive act.
Those major missteps
sting, especially when ECU teams aren’t doing anything on the field or the
court to divert our attention away from suspensions and grand juries. But
even as a host of legal trouble darkens the dull sports landscape, the
perennial bright spots in the Pirate world offer brief respites. Toni
Paisley, gone but never forgotten from Pirate softball, piled more marble on
her already-impressive monument this week when she was named the Conference
USA Softball Scholar Athlete of the Year.
In another sunny corner,
construction is nearly complete on the new track and field facility and the
new Pirate soccer complex, meaning that Coach Rob Donnenwirth won’t have to
bus his team to North Campus Crossing this year to practice and compete. As
the state-of-the-art venues along Charles Boulevard multiply, East Carolina
is slowly starting to gain the appearance of a program that can make a dent
in the top echelon of Division I.
But for the next six
weeks or so, or what feels like forever, we’re stuck here in the doldrums.
Until first downs become routine again, anticipation will nourish the Pirate
Nation, and fans can make a hobby out of seeking and appreciating the
nuggets of good news that might otherwise get lost in the frenzy of
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07/20/2011 06:18 AM